Syrah, the birth of a passion
Syrah is king among grapes in the Côte du Rhône in France, producing the prestigious wines of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. Since 1921 it has also had a place in Valais. It was brought in as part of the collection of grapes belonging to agricultural engineer Henry Wuilloud in Diolly, near Sion. He is also the director of the cantonal vineyard, Domaine de l’Etat, in Leytron, at the time.
He discovers Syrah during a visit to Tain in the French Rhone Valley. The wine makes “an enormous impression”. He brings back several young vines in 1921 before importing a greater number in 1926, through nursery man Albert Paschoud near Lausanne. A lightning bolt! Syrah and the terroir of Valais are an excellent match. Greatly encouraged by this success, Henry Wuilloud multiplies the plants. He plants 75 vines in 1933 in a Montorge vineyard, then imports another 500 vines from a nursery in Montpellier and plants these near the hospital in Gravelone in 1937. These plants provide his parent stock. Several Syrah vines in Valais are still from this strain.
Source : Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin en Valais, « Le Chardonnay et la Syrah débarquent en Valais à l’entre-deux-guerres », José Vouillamoz, ampelographer.